Dust off the dancing shoes. Virginia Tech's on the brink of a second straight March Madness appearance. The last time the Hokies danced in consecutive seasons was 1986-87. Tech blew out Georgia Tech on the road, and then beat No. 15 Clemson in Cassell.
Buzzketball now plays two home games in three days.
Virginia Tech 76–Georgia Tech 56
This was fun, and a 20-point final margin doesn't do the Hokies' effort justice.
Yes, Georgia Tech was injured. Yes, the Yellow Jackets aren't a good team. I don't care. A road win in the ACC by 20 points is impressive. Especially when Tech had a lead as large as 35.
There's not much else to say about this one. The Hokies were the dominant team for 30 of the 40 minutes. The other 10 minutes was full of Tadric Jackson going ham from the three-point arc.
The most beneficial aspect of the result wasn't that it looks good on the tournament resume, or that it was fun to watch Buzzketball whoop on somebody. Those are all great, don't get me wrong. But none of the Hokie starters played more than 24 minutes. In late February, that type of rest can not be understated. That's the best part of a blowout.
In particular, Tyrie Jackson capitalized on meaningful minutes. The Tifton, GA led all freshman bench players with 18 minutes in front of his family. He even squared off with his older brother and won the dunk battle.
Wabissa Bede played 16 minutes He served up three assists and scored three points. There were flashes of his potential for the Hokies faithful to look forward to in the future. He seemed at ease slinging the ball all over the court. P.J. Horne also played 15 minutes, but managed to pick up five fouls and get disqualified. But hey, he also contributed five rebounds.
This was a must-win for the Hokies against a bad Georgia Tech squad. Buzzketball was keenly aware of that fact and dominated a lesser team. Let's move on.
Virginia Tech 65–No. 15 Clemson 58
I'm still sweating from this game. It was packed and hot in Cassell on Wednesday night. The Hokies kept heating up as well.
Remember how I mentioned that Virginia Tech would benefit from resting their starters and getting their freshman experience? It showed.
Buzzketball received impressive production from Justin Robinson (14 points) and Kerry Blackshear Jr. (seven rebounds). That's expected though. Tech also found quality minutes on the bench. Horne scored nine points and snagged three rebounds. Bede passed his way to three assists. Jackson hit a big-time contested three-pointer. Devin Wilson led the team in three-point percentage.
Oh? Devin Wilson isn't a bench player you say? Good job, you're not skimming.
Wilson's started for a few games now, and it's proven to be a wise decision by Buzz Williams. Wilson has always been a great defensive player, but he's starting to show flashes on the offensive end. He's not a player to turn to for a consistent 15 points. But if the shot clock is winding down, just pass to Wilson and let him jack it from deep. It'll go in. Just... trust me.
I referenced Clemson's rank according to various advanced metrics prior to the contest. Pomeroy had the Tigers at No. 16, and Clemson's RPI was 9. After the Hokies win, Clemson dropped one spot to No. 17. Buzzketball, shot up to No. 28. In the RPI, the Tigers again slid down once to No. 10. Tech leaped up seven spots to No. 45.
February 24: Virginia Tech vs.
Team 6 Louisville
Fun fact: Louisville is the only team that the Hokies have never beaten in ACC play.
Louisville limps into Cassell looking to bounce back from two embarrassing losses. The Hokies will try to pick up ACC win No. 10, and make it 8 W's out of the last 10. The
threetwo-time national champs are squarely on the bubble this year, so expect the Cards to be fighting tooth and nail.
Back in January, Louisville prevailed, 94-86. The Cardinals shot 53% overall from the field, 13 for 23 from deep, and made 19 free throws. Tech's defense was... less than ideal.
Williams has mentioned time and time and time again that defense is all the Hokies have worked on in practice since the Miami loss (Feb. 3). And it's worked. In the past five games, the Hokies have held their opponent to at least nine points under the season scoring average.
Tech forced Virginia to shoot more three-pointers (38) than they've shot in the two games since the Hokies' upset win (31). The Hokies held Georgia Tech to just 3 points through the first 8:37 of the second half. And in the win over Clemson, Buzzketball won a defensive battle against a top-15 team. Read that again. Appreciate what Williams has done to turn this season around. The Hokies. Won a basketball game. With defense.
The Cardinals suffered two straight losses to Tobacco Road. A home 17-point loss to North Carolina followed by a 82-56 shellacking against Duke in Cameron Indoor on Wednesday night. Louisville has little downtime before traveling to Blacksburg. David Padgett's squad will be pressed for a victory, but they'll also be worn out and vulnerable.
The Hokies will have a chance to dictate terms. If Tech wants to let Louisville hang around and make it a close game, it'll happen. But if the Hokies want to run the Cardinals out of the building, Tech will have the opportunity to do so.
Win this game, and all of a sudden, Monday night's contest is massive. The Hokies will almost certainly be ranked for a senior night in Cassell against a surging Duke team.
February 26: Virginia Tech vs. No. 5 Duke
This should be fine. Duke is doing that thing they always do. Figuring out every single one of their glaring issues right as the season ends. Oh, and Marvin Bagley III hasn't played in four games.
When these two teams met last week, it was close for about 18 minutes. But then it turned into a showcase of how good Duke can be. There's not much that Tech could've done differently.
I'll admit that I don't have high expectations for this game. And that's okay. If Tech can win, great. It just helps move the Hokies up a seed line (or down, depends on what mood Joey Brackets is in). If Tech drops the contest, there's no harm. Duke is peaking and the Hokies won't get punished for losing to one of the best teams in the country.
It'll be interesting to see if Bagley III plays. If he does, attention will turn to whether or not Duke continues to play at the aforementioned high level. There's a very good question floating around asking whether Duke is better on defense without Bagley III. There's no question that the Blue Devils are more skilled on the offensive side of the ball when he's on the court (he's an offensive rebounding machine), but on the defensive half it's more of a debate.
If Bagley III doesn't play, expect Grayson Allen to be in the spotlight. In the four games without the star freshman, Allen has scored 95 points. In the previous 10 games before the "mild" knee sprain to Bagley III? 98 total points.
Duke's zone defense has wreaked havoc on opponents. Mike Krzyzewski mentioned after the Tech game that the Blue Devils will be almost exclusively a zone team for the foreseeable future. And it's clear why. With so many talented freshman complimented by a senior leader in Allen, Duke is capable of extending the zone past the three-point line to force bad shots by opponents.
The extension of the zone presents a weakness though. The free throw line jumper. Tech usually attacks that area with Chris Clarke. Once the ball is in Clarke's hands, he usually faces the basket, but rarely shoots. That needs to change on Monday night. The shot will be open, but whether or not the Hokies will convert lingers.
I'm confident that Virginia Tech is the tournament. Others... not so much. Splitting the upcoming two games will lock it in for just about everybody. And there's a small matter of still being in contention for a double-bye as well. These upcoming days are big for Buzzketball. Strap in.